How to Respond to Tough Interview Questions Involving Confrontation
written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/20/2011
What do you say when asked this tough job interview question, “How do you handle confrontations?" This is a challenging question that requires you to respond in a way that demonstrates to the interviewer that you are skilled and poised, and your track record of handling confrontation is excellent.
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If you are not completely prepared for an interview, a simple confrontation question from an interviewer can be a tough question to answer. If you are vague or seem unsure of yourself during the response, the interviewer could literally pull the plug on the interview right at that moment, especially if the job calls for a confident, experienced person dealing with disappointed or dissatisfied customers.
For example, handling confrontations is commonplace for customer service jobs. If you are being interviewed for a customer service position, the “handling confrontation" question is to be expected. You may even need to do a brief role-play as part of the interview process. Since you know it is coming, be prepared with some well thought-out responses that would be of value to the interviewer. Remember, every response you make should be designed for the interviewer’s benefit. She is the person who is going to decide whether the interview was successful or not.
Answering this particular question is really no different than answering any question an interviewer throws at you. Once you understand the process you should use to respond to virtually all questions, then you’ll be able to handles any question that is thrown at you.
Let’s look at the question and create a basic response so you can see how the process works.
Think back on all your previous encounters with customers and employees where you had confrontational situations. What did you do well in those situations? If you could identify the specific skills and words you used that worked, what were they? Make sure you can identify this information as it will be used in your interview response.
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Identify the Situation
There are three things you want to do when responding to this question. The first is identify for the interviewer the type of confrontation. Is it with a customer? Is it over the phone, or in person?
For example, in response to the question, you could open with, “I’m excellent with confrontation. I’ve been handling upset customers over the phone for three years, and most recently I’ve been promoted to handle upset or disappointed customers in person. Just last week, one of our loyal customers was very upset about the service he had received from our shipping department."
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Describe the Actions
The second is to describe the actions you took in dealing with the confrontation. For example, as a continuation of your response, you could say, “I could see that Mr. Smith was not happy at all. I made sure I gave him good eye contact and asked him to describe the service he received. As he was talking, I let him know that I was listening to his concerns and that I was taking him very seriously. After he was completed speaking about our service department, I told him I could take care of his concern right away. I made two quick calls while Mr. Smith was there to the shipping and accounting departments, and I was able to get everything squared away."
You just described the actions you took – listening, confirming you were listening, eye contact, immediate decision - you could also go on and describe the actual words you used in this situation with Mr. Smith.
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Describe the Results
So, after you briefly describe the confrontation, and the quick actions you took, you then describe the results of the confrontation. “After I took care of Mr. Smith’s situation, I apologized again for the inconvenience, and thanked him again for being such a loyal customer. I also let him know that if he ever has any issues in the future, to contact me directly. He seemed very happy at the end and thanked me for handling his problem so quickly. I checked last week, and Mr. Smith went ahead and ordered again from us so I was glad to see we kept him as a repeat and loyal customer. I also sent him a thank-you note for his latest order."
To summarize, how should you respond when asked the job interview question, how do you handle confrontations? First and foremost, speak confidently and convincingly that you handle these situations with poise and finesse. Once you make that type of statement, provide a recent example of how you handled a confrontation, either with a customer or employee. The three things you want to remember in answering the interviewer’s questions are; describe the confrontation, describe the actions you took, and describe the results of your action.